Thursday, June 19, 2014

Administrative Expansion and Faculty Contraction: Not a New Story

This article on the inordinate growth of higher ed administration was getting a lot of Twitter action yesterday though it's from February. We wrote about it back then ("Who's a Cost Center?"), but since it's circulating again as a part of the conversation about the Starbucks tuition program, here it is again, in case you missed it. The report that spawned the article was done by the Delta Cost Project.

Personally, I'm REAL skeptical of buying into any claim Richard Vedder makes, but the interesting thing about this article is the broad array of strange bedfellows it draws on as sources.

The reported trend, assuming it holds up in the face of scrutiny, is unsurprising for several reasons. The regulatory environment for higher education has changed and the constellation of external organizations colleges and universities have to interface with has increased. 

The article notes with irony that that administrative growth has happened even while there's been a shift from full time tenure track faculty to save money. What the author misses is the fact that part-time faculty require more supervision; the net effect is to save money from instructional budget but spend non-instructional money to supervise - that's a predictable shift in resources.

But an even bigger part of the story, I think, is that administrators create the need for more administrators. One might imagine that many hands make for light work, but it's the opposite. Anytime you hire a high level administrator you create new reporting relationships and the incentives are for the new person to grow her staff and budget. Administrators are not usually rewarded for thinning their part of the organization (except when it's faculty).

By comparison, in the American system, hiring a new professor rarely has any long term effect on staff size. In exceptional circumstances, it means the hiring of an administrative assistant; more often it means brining in grants. But in any case instructional lines are generally part of a pool - a provost or dean can potentially take back a line when an incumbent leaves. Administrative lines are not usually treated that way. In fact, because administrative positions acquire reports and have clerical staff and are plugged into all manner of bureaucratic processes, when an incumbent leaves, replacement is almost certain.

Finally, no administrator ever succeeds by solving the problem she was hired to solve. If we hire a new dean of, say, sophomore retention, that administrator will survive long term not by solving sophomore problems but by discovering more of them. That pattern can be found across the institution. No one makes them self redundant. 

from HuffPost College

New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators

New England Center for Investigative Reporting
By Jon Marcus
The number of non-academic administrative and professional employees at U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled in the last 25 years, vastly outpacing the growth in the number of students or faculty, according to an analysis of federal figures.

The disproportionate increase in the number of university staffers who neither teach nor conduct research has continued unabated in more recent years, and slowed only slightly since the start of the economic downturn, during which time colleges and universities have contended that a dearth of resources forced them to sharply raise tuition.

In all, from 1987 until 2011-12—the most recent academic year for which comparable figures are available—universities and colleges collectively added 517,636 administrators and professional employees, or an average of 87 every working day, according to the analysis of federal figures, by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting in collaboration with the nonprofit, nonpartisan social-science research group the American Institutes for Research.

“There’s just a mind-boggling amount of money per student that’s being spent on administration,” said Andrew Gillen, a senior researcher at the institutes. “It raises a question of priorities.”

Universities have added these administrators and professional employees even as they’ve substantially shifted classroom teaching duties from full-time faculty to less-expensive part-time adjunct faculty and teaching assistants, the figures show.

“They’ve increased their hiring of part-time faculty to try and cut costs,” said Donna Desrochers, a principal researcher at the Delta Cost Project, which studies higher-education spending. “Yet other factors that are going on, including the hiring of these other types of non-academic employees, have undercut those savings.”

Part-time faculty and teaching assistants now account for half of instructional staffs at colleges and universities, up from one-third in 1987, the figures show.

During the same period, the number of administrators and professional staff has more than doubled. That’s a rate of increase more than twice as fast as the growth in the number of students.

It’s not possible to tell exactly how much the rise in administrators and professional employees has contributed to the increase in the cost of tuition and fees, which has also almost doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1987 at four-year private, nonprofit universities and colleges, according to the College Board. Those costs have also nearly tripled at public four-year universities—a higher price rise than for any other sector of the economy in that period, including healthcare.

But critics say the unrelenting addition of administrators and professional staffs can’t help but to have driven this steep increase.

At the very least, they say, the continued hiring of nonacademic employees belies university presidents’ insistence that they are doing everything they can to improve efficiency and hold down costs.

“It’s a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie,” said Richard Vedder, an economist and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

“I wouldn’t buy a used car from a university president,” said Vedder. “They’ll say, ‘We’re making moves to cut costs,’ and mention something about energy-efficient lightbulbs, and ignore the new assistant to the assistant to the associate vice provost they just hired.”

The figures are particularly dramatic at private, nonprofit universities, whose numbers of administrators alone have doubled, while their numbers of professional employees have more than doubled.

Rather than improving productivity as measured by the ratio of employees to students, private universities have seen their productivity decline, adding 12 employees per 1,000 full-time students since 1987, the federal figures show.

“While the rest of the economy was shrinking overhead, higher education was investing heavily in more overhead,” said Robert Martin, an economist at Centre College in Kentucky who studies university finance who said staffing per students is a valid way to judge efficiency improvements or declines.

The ratio of nonacademic employees to faculty has also doubled. There are now two nonacademic employees at public and two and a half at private universities and colleges for every one full-time, tenure-track member of the faculty.

“In no other industry would overhead costs be allowed to grow at this rate—executives would lose their jobs,” analysts at the financial management firm Bain & Company wrote in a 2012 white paper for its clients and others about administrative spending in higher education.

Universities and university associations blame the increased hiring on such things as government regulations and demands from students and their families—including students who arrive unprepared for college-level work—for such services as remedial education, advising, and mental-health counseling.

“All of those things pile up, and contribute to this increase,” said Dan King, president of the American Association of University Administrators.

“I think there’s legitimate criticism” of the growth in hiring of administrators and other nonacademic employees, said King. “At the same time, you can’t lay all of the responsibility for that on the universities.”

There are “thousands” of regulations governing the distribution of financial aid alone, he said. “And probably every college or university that’s accredited, they’ve got at least one person with a major portion of their time dedicated to that, and in some cases whole office staffs. These aren’t bad things to do, but somebody’s got to do them.”

Since 1987, universities have also started or expanded departments devoted to marketing, diversity, disability, sustainability, security, environmental health, recruiting, technology, and fundraising, and added new majors and graduate and athletics programs, satellite campuses, and conference centers.

Some of these, they say—such as beefed-up fundraising and marketing offices—pay for themselves, and sustainability efforts save money through energy efficiency.

Others “often show up in student referenda, to build or add services,” said George Pernsteiner, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. “The students vote for them. Students and their families have asked for more, and are paying more to get it.”

Pressure to help students graduate more quickly—or at all—has also driven the increase in professional employees “to try to more effectively serve the students who are coming in today,” Pernsteiner said.

But naysayers point out that the doubling of administrative and professional staffs doesn’t seem to have improved universities’ performance. Since 2002, the proportion of four-year bachelor’s degree-seeking students who graduate within even six years, for instance, has barely inched up, from 55 percent to 58 percent, U.S. Department of Education figures show.

“If we have these huge spikes in student services spending or in other professional categories, we should see improvements in what they do, and I personally haven’t seen that,” Gillen said.

Martin said it’s true that adding services beyond teaching and research is fueling the growth of campus payrolls. But he said universities don’t have to provide those services themselves. “They can outsource them, the way that corporations do.”

To provide such things as security and counseling, said Martin, “You can hire outside firms, on a contract basis with competitive bidding. All these activities are a distraction from what the institution is supposed to be doing.”

Universities and colleges continued adding employees even after the beginning of the economic downturn, though at a slightly slower rate, the federal figures show.

“Institutions have said that they were hurting, so I would have thought that staffing overall would go down,” Desrochers said. “But it didn’t.”

There’s also been a massive hiring boom in central offices of public university systems and universities with more than one campus, according to the figures. The number of employees in central system offices has increased six-fold since 1987, and the number of administrators in them by a factor of more than 34.

One example, the central office of the California State University System, now has a budget bigger than those of three of the system’s 23 campuses.

“None of them have reduced campus administrative burdens at all,” said King, who said he is particularly frustrated by this trend. “They’ve added a layer of bureaucracy, and in 95 percent of the cases it’s an unnecessary bureaucracy and a counterproductive one.”

Centralization has been promoted as a way to reduce costs, but Vedder points out that it has not appeared to reduce the rate of hiring of administrators and professional staffs on campus—or of incessant spikes in tuition.

“It’s almost Orwellian,” said Vedder. “They’ll say, ‘We’ll save money if we centralize.’ Then they hire a provost or associate provost or an assistant business manager in charge of shared services, and then that person hires an assistant, and you end up with more people than you started with.”

In higher education, “Everyone now is a chief,” he said. “And there are a lot fewer Indians.”

This story was prepared by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news center based at Boston University and WGBH Radio/TV.

See Also

Scott Carlson. "Administrator Hiring Drove 28% Boom in Higher-Ed Work Force, Report Says," Chronicle of Higher Education, February 5, 2014

The Conversation about Free College Continues

This NPR piece does a pretty good job of getting on the table the tangle of issues that surrounds the cost of education question.

  • If education makes people economically better off, shouldn't they pay for it? 
  • Does financial aid create an economic bubble? Are college costs un-disciplined by the market? 
  • Is there a public obligation or public interest in paying for higher education? To make a better democracy? To ensure a meritocratic society? 
  • Do elite universities merely reproduce privilege? 
  • If employers provide education benefits, is there a danger that the US makes the same mistake with education that it made with health care? 
  • Or is there a danger that industry will then define what education is? 
  • Does "free college" make sense? If it does, what happens to the private non-profit education sector? If MOOCs were/are not the answer, is there something else in the technology realm that is? 
  • Are answers possible when so many different powerful actors have so many different interests and ideologies? 

Free College For All: Dream, Promise Or Fantasy?

June 19, 2014

"Free" is a word with a powerful appeal. And right now it's being tossed around a lot, followed by another word: "college."

A new nonprofit, Redeeming America's Promise, announced this week that it will seek federal support to make public colleges tuition-free. That effort is inspired by "Hope" and "Promise" programs like the one in Kalamazoo, Mich., which pays up to 100 percent of college tuition at state colleges and universities for graduates of the city's public high schools.

Starbucks announced a tuition benefit for its employees that will cover classes taken online from Arizona State University.

And we wrote last week about a Tulsa, Okla., program that pays for two years of community college for county residents.

In reality there's no free college, just as there's no free lunch. The real policy discussion is about how to best distribute the burden of paying for it — between individual families and the public at large — and, secondly, how to hold down the cost of providing it. All while leveraging the power of "free" responsibly.

FAFSA Dreams

Mention "FAFSA" to people in certain circles and you'll get an earful coming back at you. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid; it's the form that students and parents fill out to apply for financial aid. Both government and institutions use data from the form to determine financial aid awards. The circles of people who will have something to say include students and their families, admissions and financial aid officials, scholars and activists who work in the higher education realm, and politicians.

In today's Times Lamar Alexander, Republican senator from Tennessee who is a former secretary of education and Michael Bennet, a Democratic senator from Colorado and former superintendent of schools, argue for a super-simplified FAFSA and a whole other slew of federal financial aid reforms in a bill they are co-sponsoring.

  • Simpler form (2 questions)
  • Submit it earlier in process (so kids would know early in the college application process)
  • Pell grants could be used year round
  • Federal student loan repayment programs reduced to two: income based and 10 year option

Whether one agrees with proposal or not, an important piece of the policy debate is highlighted in their argument: the present system has billions of hidden costs in the amount of time students and families spend providing the information, schools and the government spend processing it, and what schools spend auditing the process.

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTORS

An Answer on a Postcard

Simplifying Fafsa Will Get More Kids Into College

WASHINGTON — THIS year, more than 20 million college students will complete the dreaded 108-question Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the Fafsa. Most do it again every year they’re in school. Some pay someone to help them. Colleges hire thousands of staff members to assist. Too many students are so intimidated by the form that they don’t bother to apply.
The Fafsa has 10 pages of detailed questions, explained by 72 pages of instructions, to complete an application that could be just two questions.
To give millions of hours back to American families, to remove what stands in the way of some students’ going to college and to save dollars that could be better spent on instruction, we are proposing legislation to reduce the federal financial aid application to a form the size of a postcard.

Hampshire Dumps SAT for Real

I am not on the "standardized tests are worthless" bandwagon, but you'll get no argument from me if you claim they are a big part of the distortion of the higher education admissions market. This is probably more so in professional schools but bachelors programs are affected too. At least in part because of US News ratings, very few institutions are willing to abandon test scores. But now Hampshire College, one of a small number of institutions that can be counted on for ongoing innovation in undergraduate education, has chucked them out the window. It will be interesting to see whether any of their principled peers follow suit.

Now if we could only get a few colleges to become extra-curricular-activity-blind, kids might be saved from having the because-it-looks-good-on-my-application motivation burned into their souls.

Inside Higher Ed

'Test-Blind' Admissions
June 19, 2014
More than 800 four-year colleges and universities do not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. But of these "test-optional" colleges, the competitive ones will look at scores that are submitted. And most selective, test-optional colleges report that a majority of applicants (typically a large majority) submit scores.
On Wednesday, Hampshire College announced that it would become the only such college that will be "test-blind," meaning that it will not look at SAT or ACT scores even if applicants submit them.

New York Times


College to No Longer Consider Test Scores in Its Decisions

Hampshire College, in Amherst, Mass., said on Wednesday that it would no longer consider SAT or ACT scores in admissions or financial aid decisions. Meredith Twombly, the dean of admissions, said Hampshire had been “test optional” since it opened in 1970 but would become “test blind,” both for greater fairness and because Hampshire favors assessment through written work, projects and discussions, not test scores. Robert Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, said Hampshire would be the only test-blind college: Sarah Lawrence College was test-blind for several years, but it reverted to test-optional two years ago after U.S. News and World Report stopped ranking it because of the lack of test scores.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why Take a Detour...

...on the road from youth to career?

Another story about "alternatives" to college.  Those of us who toil in the fields of conventional academe don't much need to worry about direct competition here; our "product" and the one described here are not direct substitutes yet. But the ideologies, if you will, expressed and implied and strange-bed-fellowed here, should give us pause. Some snippets:
  • "'It is like a university,' he told me, 'built by industry.'"
  • "... many disadvantaged students are left at the mercy of unscrupulous degree mills"
  • "Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, Harry J. Holzer of Georgetown University urges states to provide incentives to universities to steer students toward higher-wage occupations"
  • "... the evidence so far suggests that online education may do better in giving low-income students a leg up if it is directly tied to work. And companies, rather than colleges, may be best suited to shape the curriculum."
  • "It may not offer all the advantages of a liberal arts education, but it could offer a plausible path to young men and women who may not have the time, money or skill to make it through a four-year or even a two-year degree."
  • "... an alternative approach to the 'four years and done' model of higher education, splitting it into chunks that students can take throughout their lives."
We need to do some hard thinking (and actual investigating) about what "all the advantages of a liberal arts education" really are. It is simply not sufficient to yabber on about "critical thinking" and to be complacently certain that producing graduates who are cultivated sort of like we are is the be all and end all.

And, too, it's not enough just to be against the "corporatization" or "vocation-alization" of higher education. We really do need to be rethinking curriculum in terms of the question "what kind of education will it turn out, say, 50 years from now to have been a good idea to get?" or "what education will really prepare a young person for the part of the 21st century that you and I won't be around for?" 

From the New York Times

A Smart Way to Skip College in Pursuit of a Job
Udacity-AT&T ‘NanoDegree’ Offers an Entry-Level Approach to College

Could an online degree earned in six to 12 months bring a revolution to higher education?

This week, AT&T and Udacity, the online education company founded by the Stanford professor and former Google engineering whiz Sebastian Thrun, announced something meant to be very small: the “NanoDegree.”

At first blush, it doesn’t appear like much. For $200 a month, it is intended to teach anyone with a mastery of high school math the kind of basic programming skills needed to qualify for an entry-level position at AT&T as a data analyst, iOS applications designer or the like.

Yet this most basic of efforts may offer more than simply adding an online twist to vocational training. It may finally offer a reasonable shot at harnessing the web to provide effective schooling to the many young Americans for whom college has become a distant, unaffordable dream.

Intriguingly, it suggests that the best route to democratizing higher education may require taking it out of college.

“We are trying to widen the pipeline,” said Charlene Lake, an AT&T spokeswoman. “This is designed by business for the specific skills that are needed in business.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

Will $3 Coffee Kill $50,000 Tuitions?

An item in yesterday's newspaper could have real long term significance for institutions like the one at which I work. The story was about Starbucks beginning to offer to pay college tuition for its employees. When I read the headline I was genuinely startled ("Starbucks to Provide Free College Tuition"). But then I read the fine print and found myself saying "oh, for some particular online degree at Arizona State, big deal, seems like a bit of bait and switch."

But then I thought about it a little and noticed the numbers: 135,000 employees and around $500 per credit.  And then I read Joe Nocera's opinion piece.  Now, critics have already pointed out problems with the program (16 June), but the Lumina Foundation representative quoted in the first article had it right: Starbucks is just the first company to do this and the programs will evolve. There's a gigantic population in the US who basically cannot afford to go to college, period. And the jobs available to them without a college education are AT BEST jobs like Starbucks and Best Buy and on and on. If just a few of these companies go down this path, it could quickly become an important way to recruit and retain low wage, high aspiration workers and educational benefits like this will come to define the standard (both price and process) for a growing section of the higher education market.

And places like Arizona State's online degree program are going to capture that market share. And a whole bunch of people and families that are assuming unholy amounts of debt to get a college education are going to start asking why they are paying around a thousand dollars per credit if it's out there for half that.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, but it may well be that the company that convinced a world used to paying 50 cents for coffee served immediately to pay, instead, 3 dollars for a coffee they have to wait for, will convince a country full of aspiring young people NOT to consider paying 100-200 thousand dollars for an education.

This confirms a number I have arrived at by other means: unless we can figure out how to increase our productivity by about 100% (translating in practice into halving out price), we will be consigned to the proverbial dustbin of history. I think it can be done without replacing in-person education with all online degrees, but unless those of us in the in-person business start to get really serious about innovation, the only work left for us will be either producing online courses or tutoring kids who are enrolled in them.


Four Presidents for the Price of One?

This is really quite brilliant. I hope there is enough follow up to provoke the kind of thinking that it should among college and university trustees. Are they getting from their sitting president, say, four times the performance they could get from the four best leaders on the faculty? How about from provosts? 

Administrators complain about their long hours and being stretched to the breaking point - perhaps job sharing is the path to higher institutional efficiency. The market for administrative talent is phenomenally distorted by information asymmetries and the clubbiness of the higher education elite. If boards take their fiduciary responsibility seriously, this "stunt" should make them stop and think.

(h/t to KS)

From Slate, June 16, 2014

The Clever Stunt Four Professors Just Pulled to Expose the Outrageous Pay Gap in Academia

By Rebecca Schuman

The current president and vice-chancellor of the University of Alberta, Indira Samarasekera, is leaving at the end of this month. This means that her job, which pays at least 400,000 Canadian dollars (about $368,500), is up for grabs. I’m sure the search committee expected a lot of top talent in the application pool—but they probably didn’t expect 56 Canadian academics, fed up with a highly paid administration in the face of country-wide “austerity” measures, applying for Samarasekera’s job in groups of four.

The elaborate and serious joke—an HR performance piece, if you will, that would also happen to have spectacular results if it actually worked—is the brainchild of Dalhousie University professor Kathleen Cawsey and three friends, a Gang of Four whose pointed (and hilarious) cover letter has become a Canadian media cause célèbre.

The stunt comes on the heels of recent revelations that some of the United States’ highest-paid college presidents also oversaw some of the biggest increases in student debt (and, in some cases, increased hiring of low-paid adjunct faculty). Most notoriously, E. Gordon Gee received a nearly $6 million retirement package when he “retired” in disgrace from Ohio State University. (Don’t feel too bad for him, though.) If Gee had selflessly capped his buyout at, say, a meager $1 million, the university could have offered $10,000 scholarships to 500 additional students (or hired 100 new faculty at $50,000 each, give or take). Hot on Gee’s heels is James Milliken, chancellor of the CUNY system, who can now draft emails about that pesky adjunct rebellion in supreme comfort from his free $18,000-a-month apartment.

Continue reading at Slate

Toward Disruption of Disruption

Disruption's a magical buzzword these days, uncritically seized upon wherever you go. Far more than it ever was with new technologies, anyone who raises questions is an obvious counter-revolutionary, a luddite, a fan of the inefficient status quo. There's precious little quality critical thinking around innovations like taxi apps, selling restaurant reservations, and market regulation - most of the discourse is either bandwagon fandom or knee-jerk anti-ism. Lepore, more a cultural than economic historian, seems to get the organizational and economic sociology of disruption and contributes a useful bit of provocation into an otherwise too often one-sided conversation.

From The New Yorker



What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.

BY JUNE 23, 2014

In the last years of the nineteen-eighties, I worked not at startups but at what might be called finish-downs. Tech companies that were dying would hire temps—college students and new graduates—to do what little was left of the work of the employees they’d laid off. This was in Cambridge, near M.I.T. .... We’d work a month here, a week there. There wasn’t much to do. Mainly, we sat at our desks and wrote wishy-washy poems on keyboards manufactured by Digital Equipment Corporation, left one another sly messages on pink While You Were Out sticky notes, swapped paperback novels—Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Gabriel García Márquez, that kind of thing—and, during lunch hour, had assignations in empty, unlocked offices. At Polaroid, I once found a Bantam Books edition of “Steppenwolf” in a clogged sink in an employees’ bathroom, floating like a raft. “In his heart he was not a man, but a wolf of the steppes,” it said on the bloated cover. The rest was unreadable.


Porter was interested in how companies succeed. ... Clayton M. Christensen... was interested in why companies fail. In his 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” he argued that, very often, it isn’t because their executives made bad decisions but because they made good decisions, the same kind of good decisions that had made those companies successful for decades. (The “innovator’s dilemma” is that “doing the right thing is the wrong thing.”)


In “The Innovative University,” ... Christensen and Eyring wrote, “will allow us to move beyond the forlorn language of crisis to hopeful and practical strategies for success.” ... Christensen and Eyring’s recommendations for the disruption of the modern university include a “mix of face-to-face and online learning.” The publication ... in 2011, contributed to a frenzy for Massive Open Online Courses.... Shortly afterward, the University of Virginia’s panicked board of trustees attempted to fire the president, charging her with jeopardizing the institution’s future by failing to disruptively innovate with sufficient speed....

See Also

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What if We Actually Taught Critical Thinking Explicitly?

For all of our talk about critical thinking, how many of the following do you think our average graduate would be able to describe​ or recognize​? How many come up in any of YOUR classes? I could imagine a general education program and assessment based only on these. Probably more productive of that elusive "responsible citizen" than all of the ideological tripe we try to wedge into GE. ​Can I fantasize about a curriculum built around these and some affirmative evidentiary and analytical skills?  One where we start with a framework of such and design our courses to resonate with it (wouldn't have to change a lot - just reference these as touchstones and cultivate styles of thinking that recognize bad arguments and can generate good ones.

It might help to develop the critical thinking skills of the faculty and administration, too, and make for big improvements in how those two polities perform.

From "A List Of Fallacious Arguments" by Don Lindsay (h/t Victoria Stodden)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Model for "Career Preparation Across the Curriculum"

from AAC&U News...

Mapping a Path from Curriculum to Career: The Lynk Initiative at Mount Holyoke College

With the value of college increasingly being questioned as tuition continues to rise and the job market remains weak, how, asks Mount Holyoke College President Lynn Pasquerella, “do we articulate the value of a liberal education in a compelling way to those outside of the academy?” At Mount Holyoke, a liberal arts college for women in Massachusetts, the answer was to build a bridge between the liberal arts curriculum and students’ careers, and to create a comprehensive college-wide infrastructure to support that bridge.

The new initiative, known as Lynk, encourages students to start thinking early about connections between their academic work and career aspirations. It offers support—in the form of advising, mentorship, and funding—to help students complete internships, research projects, or other experiential learning opportunities that will allow them to demonstrate and reflect on the various applications of their studies in the liberal arts and sciences. “You are forced to ask questions of yourself,” says Tatum Lindsay, a recent graduate with a degree in gender studies. “How do I get where I want to go, who can mentor me, how do I identify the next step? When you have a community of people helping you with that and challenging you, [those steps] become much clearer, and it emerges what you’re passionate about.”

Involving the Whole Campus

The Lynk program comprises four stages: 
  • goal setting, 
  • professional development, 
  • practical experience, and 
  • “the launch”—a series of symposiums and presentations at which students showcase what they have learned and reflect on their next steps. 

During each stage, students work with teachers and mentors from across the entire college, including the faculty, the career development center, and the college’s three academic centers: the Miller Worley Center for the Environment, the Weissman Center for Leadership, and the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives. Faculty and staff share advising roles and co-teach courses that prepare students to move out of the classroom into internships or other professional experiences. “We’ve created parallel structures so that Lynk is not any one department’s responsibility,” Pasquerella says.